Copyright Basics

Contributed by Sarah Faulder, Chief Executive of Music Publishers Association

Copyright for Composers

For composers, the copyright is the means by which they can earn a living. It gives them rights in their work, which they can use then to dictate the terms in which their work can be used. One of those terms would be the entitlement to royalties and the terms could be the type of exploitation that they're going to permit. It could be the geographical area in which they're going to permit exploitation, limited to a regional area, country, like the UK or the world, etc.

The contract depends on how the work is used. A composer can authorise his work to be used in any number of ways. Traditionally, he operates through a music publisher and the publisher would be the one to license the use of his works and license the copyright. The work can be used in live performance on a CD or a recording, on a broadcast in synchronisation with visuals so in a film or a TV commercial, on the internet etc. Each copyright license will dictate which of those is being allowed and on what terms.

Basically no one can do anything with a work that has been protected by copyright without permission from the copyright owner. So the first copyright owner is the creator of the music: the composer. Quite often he will assign his copyright to a publisher. Then the publisher becomes the owner, and it is the publisher that gives permission for it to be used and issues the contract or the license. In those cases, the publisher or the composer will go through a collecting society like PRS for Music (formerly the Performing Right Society and the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) and they will do the licensing for the composer or publisher.

Copyright for Performers

Artists are the interpreters of the music, the performers of the music and they also have rights of copyright in their performances. Their record company also has a right in their performances, because they paid for the recordings to be made; so when a recording is used, there's another revenue stream that flows through the record labels back to the artists. They also have a collecting society for the use of sound recordings in public places, ie. hairdressers, bars or clubs, use on television broadcasts, and use on the internet. That's all collected through the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), which is the collecting society for them. There is a parallel set of rights. They are perhaps not as well established as copyright for composers and songwriters because they used to be regarded as secondary rights and they have only recently been accorded the full status of copyright.

Sarah Faulder is on the board of trustees of Sound and Music and has built her career around her passion for music. After many years as a solicitor specialising in copyright with City law firm Taylor Joynson Garrett, she was appointed Chief Executive of the Music Publishers Association. She went on to work in Paris as Chargée de Mission for CISAC and BIEM, the umbrella organisations for royalty-collecting societies, before becoming Public Affairs Director of the UK royalty-collecting societies, PRS and MCPS (2006–2009). Sarah’s current positions include Chair of the National Music Council (appointed 2009) and of the Bliss Trust.

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